We had the good fortune of connecting with Laura Lark and we’ve shared our conversation below.
Hi Laura, let’s start by talking about what inspires you?
Everything around me! I affectionately refer to my home and backyard studio as “The Compound”. I feel really fortunate for the way things are setup here because I have a lot of space, and I’ve been healthy. When COVID hit, it just gave me a lot of time to be alone and work in my studio. I’ve been painting and drawing, and I hung a green screen for video on one wall, which has been a lot of fun. My dad now lives in my (thankfully–cleaning up the space was becoming terrifying prospect) defunct Airbnb space, and the news is always on over there. I’m afraid my reaction to the preposterousness of what I see and hear has driven me to new levels of absurdity. An actor and writer friend, David LaDuca, and I have made a couple of parody commercials in response to some of what’s going on. My favorite is for an invisible, spray-on mask. But I’m also afraid that things have become so surreal, it’s difficult to effectively parody any of it. After a certain point, it’s just not that much fun lampooning the ignorance. Besides that, I’ve been “transporting” myself to new landscapes with my green screen, and I’ve taken a few portraits of my neighbor’s dog in front of it, too. That’s just been a lot of fun. I also teach Fashion Sketching (completely online this past semester) in the Fashion Design department at HCC, and I’ve been taking classes in design and construction in the department, too. I just finished a draping class with a really talented instructor named Gilbert Muniz. These classes have affected my studio practice in weird ways! I took Flat Pattern design with another awesome instructor, Vi Hua, and I was introduced to the concept of the “Basic Sloper”: a foundation pattern upon which many clothing designs are based. It turned out that the standard sloper was my size, so I could fit into the clothes that I made in class. Then Professor Hua would assign projects, simply for instructional purposes, on a half-scale sloper. This bothered me! There was nobody to wear the clothes. So I did some research and approached Envision 3D Printing out in Spring, and we worked together on a half-scale printout of my head. I then I put it on the body of one of those plastic Disney Princess dolls, so now I’ve got a model who can fit the half-sloper. I gave the doll the name “Helen Hawk”–my alter ego. It’s been a pretty hilarious and oftentimes unsettling project. My art has always been on a lot of levels about perception of one’s appearance, how we feel we’re supposed to look, so this has kind of pushed things to a new level. Mannequins and dolls and ventriloquists dummies have always seemed more than a little creepy to me. To have one in my own likeness is weird, to say the least. Finally, I was really fortunate to find out about the Wendy Wagner Foundation Creative Award; I entered “Helen” (at that point I only had the 3D printed head) and won the competition for the Winter 2020 Award. The prize money was a godsend, and it forced me to work on the doll project when I otherwise might have just literally shelved it. It’s been kind of a magical time for my own artistic process, and I’m grateful. So many of my students are suffering from illness, anxiety, and depression since the lockdown, so I really have been fortunate.
Can you open up a bit about your work and career? We’re big fans and we’d love for our community to learn more about your work.
I’ve been making art and writing for years, and I’ve never gained wild commercial success or a ton of critical attention in either field, and I’ve come to understand just how lucky I am because of that, especially since Covid. When everything shut down, my upcoming exhibition was postponed indefinitely. I realized then, more than ever, that no one was really watching and no one really cared, and there’s a lot of freedom in that knowledge, especially if you’re fortunate enough to not be starving to death. I haven’t put many things up on social media, and I’ve had more fun in my studio than I’ve ever had in my life. It’s been incredibly liberating. I guess I always thought that I’d just stop making things without a deadline, and I did used to wonder what things would look like if I didn’t feel the pressure of an immediate audience. I’m super lucky–now I know, and I like it.
If you had a friend visiting you, what are some of the local spots you’d want to take them around to?
Things are difficult now. Normally, I’d invite my friend to a dinner party in my backyard. The weather’s generally pretty good, I have a lot of space for social distancing, and I like to entertain. Since my dad came to live with me, I’ve dusted off a lot of the cookware and have started making a lot of great dishes that I never bothered to make when I was living on my own. Unfortunately, things have gotten so bad now I won’t even have a small dinner party, but I’m still making this insanely labor-intensive traditional Mexican Christmas dish called Chiles en Nogadas. It’ll be delicious, and it’s disappointing that I won’t be able to share it with my friends. We’ll have a lot of leftovers!
The Shoutout series is all about recognizing that our success and where we are in life is at least somewhat thanks to the efforts, support, mentorship, love and encouragement of others. So is there someone that you want to dedicate your shoutout to?
In my “inspiration”, I referred to the following organizations and people: The Wendy Wagner Foundation, especially Kenneth Finch, and Tara Conley. My father, Jake Lark, who’s healthy and brilliant and has proven to be a great addition to the household. The faculty, staff and students in the Fashion Design program at Houston Community College. Envision 3D Printing, Thomas Gregg and Callie Moerschell. My friend, David LaDuca, and my neighbor, Jaime Schindler, whose French bulldog, Asia, (as well as my husky, Elaine) is extremely photogenic.